According to the general consensus, the bigger international ice surface that will be used in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics will be an advantage for the European NHL players who grew up on it, and also those from the KHL who will make up a good portion of the host Russian team.
But it’s not like the Canadian and American squads have no experience on the bigger rink.
Take Rick Nash, who’s participated in multiple world championships and had a couple of stints in the Swiss league during NHL work stoppages. He knows exactly what it’s like.
“It’s a totally different game,” he says, per the Globe and Mail. “You have an extra half second. There’s more feet from the dots to the boards. You have different angles all over the ice. It’s just a different game. You can’t establish a fore-check as much as you want to on the NHL size. You can’t make as big hits.
“You get that extra second and sometimes you don’t know what to do with it. The guy’s not there yet and you’re already making your next play like you have to in the NHL, but there’s that extra half second. On the Olympic ice it’s easy to get caught on the outside. There’s so much room between the dots.”
For the two North American squads, the adjustment will have to be a quick one if they want to avoid a repeat of 2006 in Turin and 1998 in Nagano, where neither finished in the medals. That said, there are worse things for players like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane than having more time and space to make plays.
Nash, by the way, has seven goals in his last eight games for the Rangers.
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.